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Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq
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Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq [Hardcover]

Patrick Cockburn
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 8, 2008
Whatever else the United States intended when it invaded Iraq in the spring of 2003, it was not to hand the country over to a 32-year-old militant cleric who fought against their presence from the start and whom former Iraqi administrator L. Paul Bremer III described as a “Bolshevik Islamist.” Yet, as the occupation steadily disintegrates, the likelihood grows ever stronger that Muqtada al-Sadr, the black-turbaned leader of Iraq's poor Shiites, will take power when the Americans finally leave.In this compelling and narrative-driven account, Patrick Cockburn, one of the bravest and most experienced correspondents reporting from the war, tells the story of Muqtada and his extraordinary rise to become what Canadian journalist Naomi Klein described as “the single greatest threat to U.S. military and economic control of Iraq.” In these pages, Cockburn looks at the young cleric's family background, in particular the assassination of his father and two brothers by Saddam's hit men, his leadership of the 70,000-strong Mahdi army, the links between his movement Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Iranian leadership, and his frequent confrontations with the American military, including the pitched battle in the cemetery of Najaf and the recent mass demonstrations demanding an end to the occupation.This is no dry, academic treatise. Cockburn's account draws on dramatic, firsthand dealings with the Mahdi army, including a tense encounter at a roadblock outside Najaf in which he was nearly killed. However, although it often reads like an adventure story, Muqtada! provides a vital analysis of a movement that will be critical to the future of Iraq after the Americans leave.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cockburn (The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq), a veteran Middle East correspondent for The Independent, knew the Iraq occupation was doomed when, in 2004, his Irish passport saved him from certain death at the hands of Mehdi Army militiamen convinced he was an American spy: "Bush and Blair never seemed to understand that the problem was not training or equipment, but legitimacy and loyalty." Building on this idea, Cockburn takes a close look at Muqtada al-Sadr, the country's major Shi'ite opposition leader, who has been consistently demonized and belittled by U.S. authorities even as he gains legitimacy among Iraqis. Calling him "the most important and surprising figure to emerge" in post-invasion Iraq, Cockburn details Muqtada's rise, beginning in 1999 when he took his assassinated father's place as head of the Sadrists, a populist religious movement. Mounting frustration toward the U.S. led many to join the Sadrists, the only Shia group to oppose outright the occupation, quickly making Muqtada the political representative of millions. Cockburn's incisive critique of U.S. policy mistakes in Iraq goes back to the first invasion, and draws some dire conclusions, among them that it's too late for Iraq "to exist as anything more than a loose federation." This probing look at a singularly divisive, undoubtedly important figure makes an invaluable resource for anyone weighing U.S. policy in Iraq.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Authoritative.... Americans need to learn more about [Muqtada al-Sadr], and Cockburn's empathetic, insightful study is a good place to start." ---The Washington Post --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (April 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416551476
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416551478
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,045,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
General Petraeus' recent report to Congress contained the name of only one person. It was not Nouri Al-Maliki (Prime Minister of Iraq) or Abu Ayyub Al-Masri (head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq), but Muqtada Al-Sadr, the subject of this book. That, combined with the fact that it is the only biography of Sadr on the market establishes its importance.

In the first chapter, the author establishes his bona fides showing that he is not a journalist that never ventures out of the Green Zone. He gives a dramatic account of an incident with Sadr supporters at a check-point as he was attempting to travel to Najaf to interview an official within the Sadrist movement.

In the subsequent chapters, the reader receives a thumbnail sketch of the Shia in Iraq and offers a biography of Muqtada's predecessors in leading the movement, who were his father and his father's cousin. While seemingly sparse, it is actually the fullest account of their lives that can be found (in English, at least). Also, while some may balk that there are so many chapters that do not deal with Muqtada himself, it is absolutely vital context that allows the reader to understand the nature of the movement that Muqtada became the leader of.

Most of the balance of the book is devoted to Muqtada's role in the events following the invasion of Iraq. As was the case with the first chapter, the coverage is enhanced due to Cockburn's 'outside the safe zone' reporting.

The strength of the book lies in the biographical details on the Sadr's gained from personal interviews. They are to be found nowhere else and will certainly be a building block for any subsequent biographies. The book makes for lively reading and because of that, can easily be read in the span of an evening or two.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The author provides both a first hand account of the Shia poltical environment after the fall of Saddam's regime as well as a history of the unique and bitter relationship between the Shia and Saddam that is most interesting for westerners as the author explains not only the conflicts between the Shia and Sunni but also between the Shia themselves. The book is not intended to be a bio of Muqtada al-Sadr but to underline his role in the Shia political conflicts within Iraq today. The most interesting aspects of the book is the telling of how the Shia were punished and killed during Saddam regime particularly Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr's father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr. In summary yet informative detail, the author explains how the murder of Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr caused a split among the Shia particularly those leaders that fled the country and then returned after Saddam's fall. The best example of this violent split is when Sayyid Abdul Majid al-Khoei returns to Iraq to assume a leadership role among the Shia but then is brutally murdered almost at Muqtada al-Sadr's door step. The slaughter of the Shia after the coalition stopped during Deset Storm, after encouraging an uprising, is well discussed with the bitterness it invoked along with the post Iraq war misunderstandings by the U.S. occupation most noted by Paul Bremmer. This is a very concise but well written educational look at the political situation in Iraq. My only criticism is that books in detail on the middle east should have a glossary of terms and a defined character list, for those less familar with middle east terms and titles, and I include myself, to assist the reader.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stalingrad in Iraq April 27, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"Stalingrad in Iraq" deserves to be a subtitle of this thin but illuminating volume. The US Army is as entombed in Iraq as the German 6th Army was in the Soviet city along the Volga. The end results are the same in both cases: strategic defeat. Not defeat yet to come, but defeat that is already an accomplished fact: none of the Army's tactical victories can or will alter the fact. I suspect much of the Iraqi resistance knows this while the US refuses to admit it; the Germans never did until it was too late to matter. Interestingly, the book's main character, Muqtada Al-Sadr, doesn't really make an appearance until the end. The author justifies this by stating that the man cannot be understood apart from his family history and the history of Shia Islam. Even before the war began I never believed that the US or its British poodle would have a snowball's chance in Hell of succeeding. Certainly the US experience in Vietnam, the French experience in Vietnam and Algeria, and the British experience in Iraq should have provided some clue to the Coalition's clueless leaders. The religious dimension is crucial to understanding the unfolding catastrophe. The emergence of Shia Islam in Iraq as THE major player alters the region's whole balance of power and threatens to destroy American predominance there for good or certainly for the foreseeable future. The Shias have a very long memory, as this book well explains: what happened 1400 years ago is as current to them as yesterday's news is to us. They never forget and know that their moment has come. Iraq is the spiritual and historical heart of Shia Islam. More than anyone else, so millions believe, Muqtada Al-Sadr exemplifies this conjunction of faith, power and political savvy. The US demonizes him as they demonized Saddam. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Hollywoodic
Customer Video Review
Length: 3:38 Mins
Published on February 1, 2011 by Observer
4.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the future ruler of Iraq.
I think this is a solid book by an author knowledgeable about Iraq. He wrote Out of the Ashes about Saddam's phoenix like rise after the Gulf War. Read more
Published on August 14, 2010 by Kevin M Quigg
5.0 out of 5 stars Would you buy a used Camel from this man?
This book tells alot about the Iraqi Civil War between the Shi'ites and the Sunni with Al-Queda playing both sides to fan the flames. Read more
Published on January 16, 2009 by Douglas E. Libert
3.0 out of 5 stars Could have been great, but it is so biased you almost gag
Lots of good information, but in the end the author ends up suffering from the stockholm syndrome; he falls in love with Muqutada. Read more
Published on November 25, 2008 by MS
5.0 out of 5 stars In depth look at Iraqi Culture and Politics
Cockburn does a wonderful job using day to day interviews to paint a larger picture deserving of the many accolades he has received in the international press. Read more
Published on June 5, 2008 by Brian Lenzo
4.0 out of 5 stars For What It's Worth
Patrick Cockburn's approximately 30 years of covering Iraq give him the institutional memory, historical perspective and varied sources to deliver a nuanced profile of Muqtada... Read more
Published on May 26, 2008 by Evan Goodenow
5.0 out of 5 stars essential reading for anyone interested in Iraq
This is quite simply THE definitive book on the Iraqi Shia political movements. It is written by the best (and sometimes it seems only) reporter in Iraq. Read more
Published on May 21, 2008 by Mark bennett
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent but with some limitations
As an account of the violent and tragic recent history of Iraq's Shi'a, I would give this book five stars. Read more
Published on April 20, 2008 by maskirovka
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